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Confusion over a new law could threaten young voter turnout in New Hampshire

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HANOVER, N.H. — A new voting law in New Hampshire is causing confusion among college students, threatening to dampen turnout among a key Democratic voting bloc in a state where the margins of victory in 2020 could be razor-thin.

The law, known as House Bill 1264, requires students and other transient people to pay New Hampshire motor vehicle licensing and registration fees if they vote and drive there, creating new logistical and financial hurdles in a state where car registration can cost hundreds of dollars.

It was one of two bills aimed at tightening access to the ballot box passed by the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature in the wake of the 2016 election, in which Donald Trump lost New Hampshire by less than 3,000 votes and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost her Senate seat by an even smaller margin.

Republicans said the law, signed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in July 2018, was necessary to make elections fair and fight claims, which are still unproven, of significant voter fraud. But while students expressed frustrations over trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles and the expense (driver’s licenses can cost $50 and up, and car registrations are easily $300), they say the biggest problem with HB 1264 is the bureaucratic maze it’s created, leaving younger voters uncertain of their voting rights and their legal requirements.

“Students can still vote in New Hampshire, the problem is that all the rhetoric surrounding the bill has caused mass disinformation,” said Michael Parsons, the president of the New Hampshire College Democrats and the executive director of the Dartmouth Democrats.

After HB 1264 went into effect in July 2019, state officials declined to clarify how it would be enforced and implemented. Noone seemed to be able to answer the question of whether students would need a New Hampshire driver’s license to register to vote. Two months later, in September, the state’s attorney general offered the first public guidance on the law, telling people to call their local DMV if they had questions about their voting rights.

In December, state officials finally offered the clearest guidance to date with a 19-page document including five pages of questions and answers: If out-of-state students registered to vote and planned to drive, they would also have to register their cars and update their driver’s licenses within 60 days. But for a student without a car, the question remains: what makes someone a driver?

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“This law was an attempt to make voting more confusing and expensive and burdensome,” Henry Klementowicz, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, said. “Every single voter in New Hampshire needs to know that if you are eligible to vote — if you are a citizen and domiciled and over 18 — you do have the right to vote.”

At a Dartmouth College Democrats meeting of more than 100 politically active students Monday night, many said they were not clear on the law.

“People are aware that there’s something going on, but if they don’t know all the details, then they’re going to take it at face value and they’re going to think, ‘Yeah, I can’t vote,’” Arianna Khan, 20, told NBC News.

Khan organizes campus tabling, where students hand out materials and talk to fellow students. The group’s members regularly spend a combined 20 hours a week encouraging voter registration and explaining the implications of HB 1264 to the school’s approximately 6,500 students.

Student volunteers man the tables at a campaign event for Bernie Sanders on Sept. 29, 2019, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.Cheryl Senter / AP file

“I want to follow the law — I think everyone wants to follow the law. I have tried to figure it out, but if I, say, want to borrow my friend’s car to drive a group of friends out to brunch, does that make me a driver in New Hampshire?” Dartmouth student Gigi Gunderson, 21, said at the meeting.

Gunderson voted in 2018 and intends to vote in 2020, but since she doesn’t regularly drive in the state, she hasn’t updated her Minnesota driver’s license.

One student said she was forgoing renting vehicles through Zipcar, a car-sharing service, to go on winter grocery runs for fear of running afoul of the law.

Another student said he thought the law had been overturned, which isn’t the case. After Democrats retook control of the state Legislature in 2018’s November midterm elections, lawmakers voted to repeal HB 1264, as well as a 2017 law that made registering to vote in the month before an election more complicated. Sununu vetoed both.

A legal battle to block the law, meanwhile, is ongoing. The ACLU of New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Democratic Party sued the state in early 2019, calling the law a “poll tax.” Klementowicz, who is one of the attorneys arguing the case, said he hopes it will be decided before the general election in November.

More than one Democratic presidential campaign has taken notice of New Hampshire’s voting rights landscape. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts brought up the law while campaigning in Hanover earlier this month ahead of the state’s Democratic primary Feb. 11.

“The Republicans don’t want to see students vote, and I assume that’s because they think that a majority of those students are not likely to embrace the Republican agenda,” Warren said, according to the local newspaper Valley News.

Shannon Jackson, the New Hampshire state director for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign, said it was a “new obstacle” in field organizing in the state this year.

“It’s the confusion that is disturbing,” said Betsy McClain, the town clerk and the director of administrative services in Hanover, where Dartmouth is located. “We can clarify it for the people who present themselves, but maybe this confusion has dissuaded people.”

McClain said she does not tell people about HB 1264 unless they ask, because she fears suppressing voters. If they ask, she’ll give voters the same question-and-answer document she got from the state in December, even though it doesn’t spell out what makes someone a driver in the state.

“I know how I would do it. I know how I would maybe counsel my children to do it,” she said. “But I’m not in the position to counsel individual voters.”

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Trump has decided to select Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court

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President Donald Trump has decided to select Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to two sources familiar with the process.

A formal announcement is slated for Saturday at the White House.

If confirmed, Barrett, 48, a federal appeals court judge who has been reliably conservative on issues like abortion, would be the youngest justice on the high court. Her presence would also cement a conservative majority, as she replaces one of the court’s most outspoken liberals.

Before joining the appeals court, Barrett worked briefly in private practice then taught for 15 years at Notre Dame law school, where she earned her law degree.

A devout Catholic, she has the backing of evangelicals who consider her a likely vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.

Although she was not on the original list of potential Supreme Court nominees released during the Trump campaign, she was added shortly after taking a place on the appeals court bench. Trump considered her to succeed Anthony Kennedy two years ago before settling on Brett Kavanaugh.

Barrett had clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump was asked by reporters on Friday night if he had made a choice.

“I’ll be announcing it tomorrow, my decision,” he said. “In my own mind, I have, and I’ll be announcing the decision tomorrow. It’s very exciting.”

He was then asked about Barrett and said, “Well, she’s outstanding.”

Barrett was seen entering her South Bend, Indiana, home Friday evening, while Trump told a rally audience in Virginia a short time later that the nominee “hopefully will be on that court for 50 years.”

The president had pledged to nominate a woman to fill the vacancy created by the death last week of Ginsburg, and in recent days has said he was considering five finalists from a broader list his campaign released earlier month. However, sources have told NBC News that Trump had focused his attention on two possibilities: Barrett and Judge Barbara Lagoa.

Lagoa, 52, was appointed by Trump to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year. A Miami native, Lagoa was the first Latina and first Cuban American to serve as a justice on the Florida Supreme Court.

Trump said he wants the GOP-controlled Senate to hold a confirmation vote for the nominee before the Nov. 3 election, but it is unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will follow that timeline because some senators facing tough re-election bids could benefit from a vote after the election, sources told NBC News.

The Senate would have less than 40 days before the election to confirm Trump’s nominee — a speedy schedule by recent standards, although not unprecedented.

McConnell, for his part, has vowed to hold a vote but he has not specified whether he would try to have it before the election or after during a lame-duck Senate session.

McConnell said earlier this week he’d proceed with a vote when the nominee emerges from the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The Judiciary Committee is aiming to hold hearings to advance a nominee the week of Oct. 12.

That has angered Democrats, who accused Republicans of hypocrisy, citing their decision in 2016 to not give Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s choice for the high court vacancy created by Scalia’s death, a confirmation hearing because they said it was an election year.

Top Senate Democrats have said a new justice should not be confirmed until after the next president is sworn in — but there’s not much they can do to stop Trump’s nomination from moving forward.



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SNP in crisis? Ian Blackford faces calls to RESIGN amid growing backlash against Sturgeon

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IAN BLACKFORD sparked a backlash among Sky News viewers, with several urging him and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to resign, after the party’s Westminster leader requested more economic powers for Scotland.

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President would concede election ‘if he got blown out of the water’ by Biden

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Eric Trump told a crowd of his father’s supporters at an event in Las Vegas that President Donald Trump would concede the election “if he got blown out of the water” by Democratic nominee Joe Biden after the president had cast doubts on a peaceful transfer of power once the race is decided.

“I think my father’s just saying listen, if he got blown out of the water, of course, he’d concede,” Eric Trump said at the Thursday event, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If he thought there was massive fraud, then he’d go and try and address that.”

There is no evidence of massive voter fraud and election experts have repeatedly noted that if fraud happens, such as a recent case in New Jersey in which a new election was called after allegations of mail-in ballot fraud, it is easily found. But the president’s comments still caused consternation among constitutional and election experts.

Nine states and the District of Columbia plan to send ballots in the mail to all registered voters. Of those states, only Nevada is considered a swing state where Biden holds a six-point lead. In other states, such as Michigan and Florida, voters have to request an absentee ballot in order to vote by mail.

Eric Trump told supporters at the event, which was outdoors with a limited crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state, that Democrats “are going to cheat” in the election and pressed supporters to be poll watchers.

At a campaign rally in Virginia on Friday, the president told supporters he wanted a “beautiful transition.”

“And I want a smooth beautiful transition, but they don’t add the other part,” he said, pointing toward journalists at the event. “But it’s got to be an honest vote.”

Earlier this week, the president declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose this fall to Biden.

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster.”

Pressed further, Trump said: “We’ll want to have — get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” Trump also wavered in June when asked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace whether he would accept the election results.

Top Republican lawmakers were quick to dismiss Trump’s refusal to commit and Democrats pounced on the president’s comments, describing his words as frightening and fascist.

“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tweeted following Trump’s remarks.

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